Trying to find a spot to forage in Colorado? The best place to start is typically public land. Here is a rundown of public land options in Colorado from the viewpoint of a mushroom forager.
There are myriad local (city and county) parks across Colorado, but each are has its own local rules and must be researched on a case-by-case basis. Some localities, the Boulder area for instance, have clear signage and firm rules against foraging and they are enforced. Other towns may not have any rules! Keep in mind you may want to avoid town parks impacted by dog feces, herbicides and pesticides.
At the state level, it is illegal to forage in any and all state park unless clearly posted otherwise. We are not personally aware of any state parks that have posted permission to forage; please comment below if you know of any state parks that permit foraging.
Most of the foraging opportunities in Colorado are on higher elevation land managed by federal agencies like the the BLM, USFS or National Parks. The modern forager must navigate this patchwork of agencies and their rules. Following is a breakdown of Federal Lands.
Colorado has four national parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It is forbidden to forage any products in Colorado’s National Parks. Don’t even think about it.
The Bureau of Land Management manages millions of acres in Colorado with mushroom hunting potential. Personal picking is free and no permit is required. Click here for a map.
The United States Forest Service manages 11 national forests (and 2 grasslands). Like all USFS land around the US, each respective forest creates its own foraging rules. Generally speaking in Colorado, personal foraging is allowed with a permit and commercial foraging is allowed in about half the forests. Again, generally speaking, Wilderness areas don’t forbid foraging but the leave no trace ethic frowns on harvesting mushrooms in these zones. Click Here for a map.
Colorado Forest Foraging Guide
- Arapaho & Roosevelt
- Medicine Bow-Routt
- White River
- Pike and San Isabel
- Grand Mesa
- San Juan
- Rio Grande
They have a link on their permit page where you can request a forest product permit. There are several ranger districts and the forest seems to push mushroom permits down to the ranger district method.
Within this forest, only the Boulder Ranger District has published rules: The Permit is required for personal mushrooms. $2 per lb, 20 lb max annually, no Wilderness collection. Interestingly, they state mushrooms can be measured by volume, with 1 gallon = 1 lb. The website says that Collectors must note their location the permit.
Personal Permits are free: 1 Gallon per day/5 per year. Commercial Permits are $20. This forest provides a map with areas for picking clearly marked – make sure to visit this page and check out the maps, it has its area divided into 10 zones.
Wilderness areas are marked on the maps and are off limits. So are Research areas & Special Interest Areas.
Matsutake must be cut in half!
They provide absolutely zero guidance on their website. IF you know, please comment below; we will try to get this information here asap.
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest
Permit Required for personal use. (contact district office for details)
Commercial (or more than 10 lbs), purchase @ $2 per lb. 150lb max
Wilderness: No guidance at either the forest level; must assume it is OK
San Juan National Forest
Small amounts allowed without permit. Permit required for more than 1 lb. $20 permit for more than 10lbs.
Rio Grande National Forest
Up to 2 gallons/day or 10gal/year free without permit. Above 10lbs $2 per pound with permit.
The Uncompahgre Forest shares its mushroom permitting with Grand Mesa and Gunnison – Please visit the Grand Mesa tab above
The Gunnison shares its mushroom permitting with Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre – Please visit the Grand Mesa tab above
- Boulder Ranger district measures mushrooms by volume, with 1 gallon = 1 lb
- The Boulder Ranger District also says collectors must note their location the permit. On many permits: they want you to denote the date, location and lbs of mushooms, then write this info directly on the permit.
- No online permits available, anywhere
Learn about wilderness areas in the “Special Areas” tab of each respective forest. Some forests strictly forbid foraging in their Wilderness areas. Others don’t mention it one way or another. One must assume that if it is not addressed in published regulations (they address many other items in their Wilderness rules), then it is allowed. However, the messaging was consistent across all National Forest administrative unites encouraging and practicing Leave No Trace principles while in the Wilderness. The 4th (of 7) Leave No Trace principle is “Leave What You Find.”
With late spring snows it could shape up to be another great foraging season in Colorado this year. As always, let’s hope for at least average rains, that is all it takes!
Good luck out there!